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Palm Pilot vs. Paper Planners

March 10, 2020

This technology was all the rage

528912-usrobotics-palmpilot-1997Twenty three years ago, this product was the “be all, end all” in new technology. A year earlier, business people everywhere were snapping these up, sure that they would be the ultimate organization tool. That product was the Palm Pilot – the highly successful Personal Digitial Assistant (PDA) computer you could carry in your pocket.

On March 10, 1997, the second generation Palm products were launched and – much like the latest iPhone or Android phones of today – they were the ‘got to have it’ device of the late 1990’s.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Pilot was the name of the first generation of personal digital assistants manufactured by Palm Computing in 1996 (by then a division of U.S. Robotics).

The inventors of the Pilot were Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan, who founded Palm Computing in 1992. The original purpose of this company was to create handwriting recognition software, named PalmPrint, and personal information management (PIM) software, named PalmOrganizer for the PEN/GEOS based Zoomer devices. Their research convinced them, however, they could create better hardware as well. Before starting development of the Pilot, Hawkins said he carried a block of wood, the size of the potential Pilot, in his pocket for a week. Palm was widely perceived to have benefited from the notable, if ill-fated, earlier attempts to create a popular handheld computing platform by Go Corporation, Tandy, and Apple Computer (Newton).”

Palm – they had to drop the Pilot designation following a legal dispute over the Pilot pen trademark – is a case study of a wildly successful startup. After it was sold to US Robotics, the company switched hands multiple times. Today it is a division of Hewlett Packard. No doubt its founders have prospered financially from their invention.

Personally, I’ve never owned or used a Palm product. Back in the late 1990’s when they were all the rage, I was a Mom just trying to get through each day and making sure my kids were both alive at the end of it. I do recall that there were lots of people who raved about their Palm Pilots and swore they could not live without the thing. When in meetings or trying to set up something with many of the other people I knew, out would come the device – seems to me there was a little stylus thing to write on the screen – and it was the only way they seemed to be able to schedule anything in their life.

Calendar collection 2

Ready for 2021 and 2022

Me, I was definitely old school. Give me a calendar and a pen – that’s how I did it. And still do. Yes, I have a phone with a calendar app on it. I also have an electronic notepad on that machine. I use both from time to time but for ease of access and speed I have found the following system which works for me.

  1. Print my own custom monthly calendar pages which fit into a small, portable notebook.
  2. Put all known events onto the dates where they are scheduled.
  3. Carry the calendar with me whenever I go out. Write appointments in it.
  4. Transfer appointments to an erasable weekly calendar which lives on fridge.
Fridge Calendar

The erasable by week calendar segments on the family fridge

Occasionally, I forget to take the calendar with me. It’s then I will either put dates in the phone or, more likely, send myself an email reminder. Then when I get to my regular computer I will retrieve the information and write it on my calendar.

While technology is great, the advantage of paper for calendars and lists is simple: they never run out of battery power and quickly writing a few details is easier than the hunt and peck of an electronic keyboard.  Of course, anyone who has ever seen my desk knows that I never run out of pens. Or paper.

In 2021 I am becoming a true  calendar recycler. The past few months I’ve been working my way through boxes of old papers. I have assembled, over the years, quite a number of wall calendars. I wondered if, rather than throwing them out, perhaps there were years coming up which had the same date configurations?

Of course there had to be, but how to easily determine which years matched? There’s a website called TimeandDate.com which, for the geeky among us, is just the best. Put in the year of the calendar you have and it will reveal all.

Calendar collectionWhich I did with my 22 saved wall calendars. I’m all set for 2021, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and beyond. This year, however, I had to buy a new paper calendar. Why? Leap year. For 2020, the layout of dates occurs only once every 28 years and there was not a 1992 in my arsenal. But I’m now good for the year 2048 (Note to my children, be sure to put the calendar up on the wall for me in my Senior facility, okay?)

By my calculations the next time I need to buy a calendar is in 4 years with yet another leap year and not having saved a 1996 calendar. 2024 may be the last one I’ll ever have to buy. Being a saver can really pay off.

(Update… a few weeks after I posted this I discovered a couple more paper calendars! Total now stands at 28.)

(Update #2… March 10, 2021. I’m pretty sure of the FINAL count… 45. I am not sure I have enough wall space for the 2025 and 2026 years!)

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_(PDA)

https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/repeating.html?year=2020

http://www.uvpinc.com/14-x-14-weekly-magnetic-dry-erase-calendar

The Great Planet Debate

February 18, 2020

Pluto’s Plight

If ever you want to start an argument, be sure to bring up this topic. No, I’m not talking about politics. Or whether Tom Brady really cheated during “Deflategate.” The topic which really gets people animated is whether Pluto is or is not a planet.

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Our NOT ninth planet, Pluto

It was on February 18, 1930, when astronomer Clyde Tombaugh announced the confirmation of a planet just beyond Neptune. The solar system got its ninth and school children everywhere were soon making models of the sun surrounded by Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto.

The real story began a number of years earlier. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 1906, Percival Lowell—a wealthy Bostonian who had founded Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1894—started an extensive project in search of a possible ninth planet, which he termed ‘Planet X‘. By 1909, Lowell and William H. Pickering had suggested several possible celestial coordinates for such a planet. Lowell and his observatory conducted his search until his death in 1916, but to no avail. Unknown to Lowell, his surveys had captured two faint images of Pluto on March 19 and April 7, 1915, but they were not recognized for what they were. (snip)

Tombaugh’s task was to systematically image the night sky in pairs of photographs, then examine each pair and determine whether any objects had shifted position. Using a blink comparator, he rapidly shifted back and forth between views of each of the plates to create the illusion of movement of any objects that had changed position or appearance between photographs. On February 18, 1930, after nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on January 23 and 29. A lesser-quality photograph taken on January 21 helped confirm the movement. After the observatory obtained further confirmatory photographs, news of the discovery was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory on March 13, 1930. Pluto has yet to complete a full orbit of the Sun since its discovery, as one Plutonian year is 247.68 years long.”

For the putative ninth planet, however, controversy was ever present. Despite the initial excitement at the evidence of its existence, the questions soon arose: was it truly a planet, or was it a Neptunium moon gone astray?

For years scientists sought out photographic evidence of the planet, made possible as telescopes were improved.  Then in August 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to officially define what makes a planet in our solar system a planet. Their three criteria are:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the Sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape defined by hydrostatic equilibrium.
  3. It must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

k-belt1It is the third criteria which caused Pluto a problem. The object exists as part of the Kuiper Belt, an astronomical conglomeration of ice fragments which – like planets – is in orbit around the sun. It is here where Pluto exists.

Over the years, scientists have identified other planet like objects which, like Pluto, circle the sun from within the Kuiper Belt. Along with Pluto are other large spheres. Were these also planets?

The answer came back ‘no.’ Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The IAU further decided that bodies that, like Pluto, meet criteria 1 and 2, but do not meet criterion 3 would be called dwarf planets. In September 2006, the IAU included Pluto, and Eris and its moon Dysnomia, in their Minor Planet Catalogue, giving them the official minor planet designations “(134340) Pluto’, ‘(136199) Eris’, and ‘(136199) Eris I Dysnomia’. Had Pluto been included upon its discovery in 1930, it would have likely been designated 1164, following 1163 Saga, which was discovered a month earlier.

kbosThere has been some resistance within the astronomical community toward the reclassification. Alan Stern, principal investigator with NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, derided the IAU resolution, stating that ‘the definition stinks, for technical reasons’. Stern contended that, by the terms of the new definition, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, all of which share their orbits with asteroids, would be excluded. He argued that all big spherical moons, including the Moon, should likewise be considered planets. He also stated that because less than five percent of astronomers voted for it, the decision was not representative of the entire astronomical community. Marc W. Buie, then at the Lowell Observatory petitioned against the definition. Others have supported the IAU. Mike Brown, the astronomer who discovered Eris, said ‘through this whole crazy circus-like procedure, somehow the right answer was stumbled on. It’s been a long time coming. Science is self-correcting eventually, even when strong emotions are involved.”

And so it remains. Pluto is no longer considered the ninth planet in our solar system. But don’t tell that to Pluto lovers.

Of course, anyone who grew up in the 1930’s through to the early 2000’s, may be hard to convince. In the last blissful year of Pluto being a planet, my daughter was in 7th grade. Like the generations before her she was to build a model of the solar system using some unique material to do so. Currently between rounds of braces she opted for the one thing she loved more than anything: chewing gum.

In her mind, I’m positive, what better way to fulfill her chewing gum habit AND have Mom and Dad pay for it than to build a solar model out of gum? Over a number of weeks she chewed gum and saved it. Then chewed more and saved it. Soon massive amounts of gum began to be shaped into sun and planets. A plywood board was acquired, painted black, and marker lines put down showing the planets and their orbit. The Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars proved simple. Planet by planet the gum was shaped into tiny little spheres and glued to the board.

When it dawned on her the amount of gum it would take to complete the model it was back to the store for more gum. She chewed until her jaw hurt to create Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. By the end of the project I believe she would have been relieved had Pluto NOT been a planet.

At last the day arrived and I helped her carry the massive solar masterpiece to class. I can still see the look on her teacher’s face when she realized it was created from chewed gum and declared it the most unique material she (the teacher) had ever seen for a solar system project.

My daughter’s sore jaw and unique gambit paid off as she was awarded an “A”. And although she continued to like gum occasionally, her obsession ended with the creation of her solar system model.

child's 3D solar system

This is NOT my daughter’s solar system project. Try to imagine this made out of gross globs of chewed gum and you would have it… Alas, no photographic evidence exists as we lost all a couple years of photos in a computer hard drive crash in 2006

So be sure to share Pluto’s story and ask the question: Is Pluto our ninth planet? You’re sure to have a lively debate.

A couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuiper_belt

 

 

 

Close Encounters of the Cervidae Kind

October 8, 2019

Public Service Announcement

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Soon after we moved to our new home one of the neighbors stopped by to welcome us

This week’s blog is really more of a public service announcement (PSA). Each year when I turn the calendar to October I know it is time once again to think about the very scary…. Cervidae. Or, as most people know the species, deer.

With approximately 21 million deer living in the United States, it should surprise no one that conflicts between people and deer will arise. Back to that in a moment. But first a little information on the Mule deer species, the most common cervidae in the Pacific Northwest, as told by the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Deer are browsers. During the winter and early spring, they feed on Douglas fir, western red cedar, red huckleberry, salal, deer fern, and lichens growing on trees. Late spring to fall, they consume grasses, blackberries, apples, fireweed, pearly everlasting, forbs, salmonberry, salal, and maple. The mating or ‘rutting’ season occurs during November and early December. Bucks can be observed running back and forth across the roads in the pursuit of does. After the rut, the bucks tend to hide and rest, often nursing wounds. They suffer broken antlers, and have lost weight. They drop their antlers between January and March. Antlers on the forest floor provide a source of calcium and other nutrients to other forest inhabitants. Bucks regrow their antlers beginning in April through to August.

The gestation period for does is 6–7 months, with fawns being born in late May and into June. Twins are the rule, although young does often have only single fawns. Triplets can also occur. Fawns weigh 2.7 to 4 kg (6.0 to 8.8 lb) and have no scent for the first week or so. This enables the mother to leave the fawn hidden while she goes off to browse and replenish her body after giving birth. She must also eat enough to produce enough milk to feed her fawns. Although does are excellent mothers, fawn mortality rate is 45 to 70%. Does are very protective of their young and humans are viewed as predators.

Deer communicate with the aid of scent and pheromones from several glands located on the lower legs. The metatarsal (outside of lower leg) produces an alarm scent, the tarsal (inside of hock) serves for mutual recognition and the interdigital (between the toes) leave a scent trail when deer travel. Deer have excellent sight and smell. Their large ears can move independently of each other and pick up any unusual sounds that may signal danger.

At dawn, dusk, and moonlit nights, deer are seen browsing on the roadside. Wooded areas with forests on both sides of the road and open, grassy areas, i.e. golf courses, attract deer. Caution when driving is prudent because often as one deer crosses, another one or two follow.”

DEERThe last line brings me back to the PSA. From October through December you are much more likely to see deer near or on the road and are much more likely to hit one with your car. The reasons are likely due to mating season and to the need for the animals to forage farther and farther for food to sustain them through the winter.

At the ripe old age of 22 I learned the hard way a universal truth about deer. Driving home from Tacoma to Eatonville one early October night in my trusty Ford Pinto, a deer ran out in front of me. I braked and missed the animal… then made a classic mistake. I put my foot on the gas and sped up. Yep. I hit the second deer.

Over the years I’ve encountered many deer on the roads and have been known to freak out a bit when driving, especially at dusk. I’m constantly watching the sides of the highway looking for the critters.

My concern is justified. I hit my second deer one morning in spring while on my way to work. Yes, I’m paranoid.

My most illustrative encounter occurred in late September while driving a group of teenage girls to a weekend camp out on Hood Canal. It was a Friday and by the time we stopped for fast food and then wove our way through the Seattle metro traffic, it was dark.

As we made our way along State Highway 106 and approached Twanoh State Park, the young woman who was riding shotgun asked why I was driving so slow.

“I’m looking for deer,” I replied, then continued, “They are active this time of year and day.”

I then proceeded to tell her about my two deer related accidents and issued the following warning:

deer on road.jpg“So if you are ever driving and a deer jumps out in front of you, STOP, because they always travel in pairs.”

“Always?” she questioned.

“Pretty much always,” I replied.

And then, not three minutes later, it happened.

From my left a deer bounded across the road in front of the van. I hit the brakes and stopped. A moment later the second deer crossed exactly where the car would have been had I not stopped.

“How did you do that?” she asked, a look of awe on her face in the low glow of the dashboard lights.

“It’s my deer karma,” I replied.

Yes, deer karma is a thing. I have another friend who is certain that I attract the critters. On a different road trip a few years earlier I was a passenger going from Moscow, Idaho, to Seattle one night. It was late June and we had been talking about my deer encounters. This poor woman was panicked, worried about ‘when’ (not if!) some random buck or doe would pop up in front of us. For 240 miles everything was fine and I kept saying that I was not capable of conjuring up random deer… that was until the very top of Snoqualmie Pass. As she drove around the last sweeping curve there, right in the middle of Interstate 90, was a deer. Just standing there in the center lane.

“I knew it! I knew it!” she exclaimed. “It’s you. They’re your totem animal.”

As for me I had no explanation. I’d never before seen a deer standing in the middle of Snoqualmie Pass and never have again. Yet, there the deer was, confirming to her that I attracted the animals.

Personally, I think it would be much easier to have a dog, a cat, or a chipmunk, for my totem animal. Or a sloth. A sloth would be nice as it would never jump out in front of me while driving.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-tailed_deer

https://www.simplemost.com/10-states-youre-likely-hit-deer-avoid-collision/

Howe It’s Made

The Invention of the Sewing Machine

September 19, 2019

598px-elias-howe-sewing-machineThis invention truly revolutionized American life. The sewing machine was granted a patent on September 10, 1846. While most people associate the name Singer with the sewing machine it was actually an inventor by the name of Elias Howe who conceived of and created the first such machine. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“He almost beggared himself before he discovered where the eye of the needle of the sewing machine should be located. It is probable that there are very few people who know how it came about. His original idea was to follow the model of the ordinary needle, and have the eye at the heel. It never occurred to him that it should be placed near the point, and he might have failed altogether if he had not dreamed he was building a sewing machine for a savage king in a strange country. Just as in his actual working experience, he was perplexed about the needle’s eye. He thought the king gave him twenty-four hours in which to complete the machine and make it sew. If not finished in that time death was to be the punishment. Howe worked and worked, and puzzled, and finally gave it up. Then he thought he was taken out to be executed. He noticed that the warriors carried spears that were pierced near the head. Instantly came the solution of the difficulty, and while the inventor was begging for time, he awoke. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. He jumped out of bed, ran to his workshop, and by 9, a needle with an eye at the point had been rudely modeled. After that it was easy. That is the true story of an important incident in the invention of the sewing machine.”

Alas, Elias Howe had competition in the development of the sewing machine and another, much better known name, came to dominate the industry. Also from the Infalllible Wikipedia:

Elias-Howe-sewing-machine“Despite his (Howe) efforts to sell his machine, other entrepreneurs began manufacturing sewing machines. Howe was forced to defend his patent in a court case that lasted from 1849 to 1854 because he found that Isaac Singer with cooperation from Walter Hunt had perfected a facsimile of his machine and was selling it with the same lockstitch that Howe had invented and patented. He won the dispute and earned considerable royalties from Singer and others for sales of his invention.”

Howe, like Singer, ended up a multimillionaire.

Before this society altering machine was invented, it took some 14 hours for a person – usually a woman – laboring at home and sewing each seam by hand to make a shirt. Those hours were invested after all other chores were done: cooking, cleaning, washing, and child care. The sewing machine, which at first was used in factories, eventually made its way to the home allowing women to sew stronger, better garments, and saving hundreds of hours of valuable time.

For me, my relationship with the sewing machine is a love/hate affair. When in Junior High I took Home Economics classes which, at Wilson Junior High in Yakima, were split into two segments. One was to learn all the skills needed to cook. The other was to learn how to sew. I was in eighth grade in the sewing segment when I received my first exposure to home economics.

A line dressOur initial project was to sew a basic A-line dress. For those unfamiliar with the term, what that meant was a dress of three pieces: front, and two mirror image back pieces with a zipper down part of the middle. No sleeves, just armholes with armhole facings; darts at the bodice completed the fitting. In all, the pattern consisted of 8 pieces. Five of those pieces were facings around the arms and neck.

Our teacher sent us out on the mission to purchase material for our dresses. I acquired a very loud, very late 1960’s/early 1970’s fabric, with colorful flowers on a white background. Day by day we labored. Pattern pieces had to be carefully laid out and pinned down, paying attention to concepts such as grain lines as we learned how to ‘read’ the pattern. When that was completed, we cut the fabric, making sure to follow the printed lines of the pattern and the little tabs to be matched. Step by step we succeeded in sewing together our creation. We learned the proper way to sew darts (the dress had four of them), install a zipper, finish edges, and to sew (by hand) a hem.

70s floarl.jpg

Material similar to that used in my first dress

When my dress was completed I was excited to wear it… only to discover that due to a similarity to a long legged colt, the length of the dress was such that all anyone noticed were my knock-kneed legs extending a mile from the hem to the floor.

This might have been due to the fact that the mini skirt was the dominant fashion in the late 1960’s. Or it might have been that between my 8th and 9th grade years of school I grew, literally, six inches in height. From the time I started the dress to when it was finished, I had gained most of this height.

But I was not discouraged as I had discovered I possessed ability in creating garments. Soon I had a bit of a cottage industry going. As a member of the Rainbow Girls the need for custom dresses for its members provided customers. The very first dress I made for someone else was for my friend, Wende, who paid me $15 to sew a dress.

Over the years the ability to sew has come in handy. I can mend pretty much anything and can sew clothing. I’ve created costumes for my children, dresses for countless Rainbow girls, and my most recent project of sewing 21 identical aprons for gifts.

The most painful experience occurred, however, in January 2010. Sewing, I discovered, was still a time consuming process despite Mr. Howe’s invention and subsequent improvements to his design.

Enter into my world the serger. Unlike the sewing machine, a serger will completely bind the edge of the material, cutting and simultaneously sewing together two pieces of fabric into a never to be undone seam. The addition of the serger was a miracle for me. Seams which before had taken 20 minutes each now required but a few minutes.

The blue dress

Until. Until I was sewing my first project using the serger. It was to be a rather delicate and beautiful blue dress using a pattern in the same style as the wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton for her marriage to Prince William. There was lace. There was satin. It was going to be stunning. I was happily serging the seams in anticipation of the dress being completed when my foot slipped on the pedal and the serger went one stitch too far. I looked down at the garment and there, in the nearly completed dress, was a perfect cut into the midriff in the shape of a small upside down V.

The dress which was attacked.

I stared in horror at the incision and wondered how to fix the mistake. Could I bind the edge to repair it? Could I tuck in under?

The reality of the situation hit me. There was no way to ‘fix’ the mistake. It would have to be redone.

The memory of that day is forever seared into my brain. I continued to study the ruined bodice for what seemed like several minutes. At last I stood. I turned off the machine. I left the dress right where it was, a testament to the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine.”  I left my sewing room for the rest of day, literally sick over the fact that I would have to recreate the destroyed section, learning in that moment that a serger was but a tool which, if not used correctly, was no more useful than any other tool in the wrong hands.

The next day I returned to the sewing room, cut out the new section and was able to recreate the damaged piece. My mistake had added a couple of hours to the project. The dress? It turned out beautifully, a true masterpiece on the lovely young woman who wore it. Thankfully, I had enough extra material to fix what had been so easily destroyed.

As for me, sewing is something I do because it served an end, but it’s not my life’s passion. My passion is this: writing.

I do find, however, that when my brain is tired from the creative process of writing, sewing can provide a comfort in the sheer rote of its methods. Seams are seams. There are only so many ways to put a garment together and once you master that you can make pretty much anything so long as you respect the machines which make it possible.

But writing… well, that taps into my creative mind as I’m always looking for new and different ways to share ancient truths.

So I leave the sewing to those whose passion it is. Artistry comes in many forms.  Except for an occasional project, my 10 hour sewing days are behind me and I’ve closed the shop.

I also think it’s time to bring back Home Ec. classes like sewing. We’ve now raised a couple generations of people, the majority of whom seem to lack basic life skills. Being able to sew a seam, and put up a hem is just one example of valuable ability. Cooking, carpentry, and mechanical aptitude should be added to that list also.

So I salute Elias Howe and his vision for the modern sewing machine. It truly changed the life of women.

The Infallible Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewing_machine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Howe

The First Tuesday in September

September 3, 2019

On Saddle Shoes and Pee Chee Folders

The first Tuesday of September was always a day which struck fear in my heart. In fact, no other day of the year caused more anxiety and distress than this one.

The reason, of course, was due to the fact that when I was growing up school always started on this day.

Unlike in today’s world, where we are inundated with back to school ads for supplies and equipment beginning in late July, in the 1960’s and 70’s, we didn’t much think about going back to school. That is until one day in late August my mother would ominously announce that school started the next week.

Pee CheeSo off we would go to get things. Our back to school supply list included Pee Chee folders, notebook paper, #2 pencils, and BIC pens. That was it.

For clothing, I was lucky to get one new outfit for the first day of school. And the most evil of all footwear ever invented: saddle shoes.

I’ll get back to those in a bit.  First off, however, I imagine you are wondering about the Pee Chee.  What is a Pee Chee? And why do so many people my age wax so nostalgic over a folded in half piece of cardstock? I knew it deserved Tuesday Newsday status. Since I couldn’t find the official day they were introduced, the first Tuesday in September seemed the perfect date to learn about them. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The yellow Pee-Chee All Season Portfolio was a common American stationery item in the second half of the 20th century, commonly used by students for storing school papers. It was first produced in 1943 by the Western Tablet and Stationery Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pee-Chees were later produced by the Mead Corporation. (snip) These inexpensive folders are made of card stock with two internal pockets for the storage of loose leaf paper. The pockets are printed with a variety of reference information including factors for converting between Imperial and metric measurement units, and a multiplication table. The folders had fallen out of general use by the 2000s, but are available from Mead as of 2014.”

useful information.jpgNote the words “multiplication table.” This was probably the most valuable thing a Pee Chee provided as we were expected to memorize this table. By the time you got up to the twelves, it got a bit difficult. The handy dandy Pee Chee came to your rescue. Of course our teachers knew this and we had to put our Pee Chee’s away during test time.

When I walked home from elementary school I only carried a Pee Chee and rarely any books unless it was one checked out from the library. By the time I was in Junior High and High School, books were part of the equation. Along with the Pee Chee of course.

That brand new, unmarked, non-dog-eared Pee Chee was the best part of being forced to go back to school. And paper, pencils and BIC pens, of course. Oooh, and Flair pens starting in Junior High!

The worst part? From first grade through sixth I was subjected to torture by being forced to wear saddle shoes. Whoever invented this shoe should have been required to wear a new pair every week for their entire lives just so they would know what pain they subjected multiple generations of girls to endure.

Yakima NordstromMy mother would take me and my sister to Nordstrom’s Shoe store… in the 1960’s in Yakima that’s all it was… a shoe store. We would bypass all the beautiful shiny black patent leather shoes and the cute Mary Janes and go directly to the rack of clunky saddle shoes. There they sat, big, bulky, and ugly. They had brown soles thicker than a slice of French toast. Across their beige bodies was a second strip of stiff brown leather, with laces through the holes, just waiting to cinch your foot into bondage. Heaven forbid that you got shoes which fit… no, they had to be a bit big so you’d grow in to them and not grow out of them before the following June.

We would wear them around the house for several days before school started in a futile effort to ‘break’ them in. It never worked. The first few weeks of school our feet bore witness to the horrors of saddle shoes; oozing red blisters were covered with adhesive tape and we’d limp through the day. Eventually the leather softened and the blisters abated… usually by October. Kids today just don’t realize how lucky they are to have been spared the scourge of saddle shoes.beige and brown saddle shoes

Even now the first week of September is my least favorite time of the year; despite the fact I do not have to go back to school nor do my children.

I am, however, very, very tempted to go hang out in the office supply store and indulge myself in the smell of paper and ink and the plethora of notebooks, papers, pens, and paperclips. Anyone who has seen my office knows that I have stacks of spiral notebooks, hundreds of colored paperclips (many with decorative tops), and a collection of G-2G 2 pens pens of every hue. In fact, just writing about it inspires me to head to my nearest Office Depot Max to see what’s on sale. Unlike saddle shoes, office supplies never go out of fashion!

As always a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pee_Chee_folder

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddle_shoe

Yes, it is true. In 1960 Nordstrom’s only sold shoes. The store in Yakima was one of only 8 stores at the time.

https://shop.nordstrom.com/content/company-history

 

 

My Teenage Lifeline

The Rotary Dial Phone

August 20, 2019

For young people in the 1960’s and 70’s, this device was as essential to teenagers as the smart phones of today.

The difference being that this device was tethered to a specific location and it allowed you to do but one thing: talk.

Nearly every household in middle America had one and, by the early 1960’s, all featured a rotary dial, the patent for which was applied for on August 20, 1896. The device was, of course, the telephone.

Rotary Dial phonesIt was, however, the addition of the rotary dial which made it possible for the telephone to become a common household essential. As is often the case, controversy surrounded the granting of patents. The first rotary style was developed in 1891. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Almon Brown Strowger was the first to file a patent for a rotary dial on December 21, 1891, which was awarded on November 29, 1892, as U.S. Patent 486,909. The early rotary dials used lugs on a finger plate instead of holes, and the pulse train was generated without the control of spring action or a governor on the forward movement of the wheel, which proved to be difficult to operate correctly.”

It was only a few short years later when three inventors in Kansas – brother’s Charles and Frank Erickson along with their friend Frank Lundquist – provided the refinement needed and the rotary dial with finger holes that we know was invented. Different enough from Strowger’s design, it became the standard. From the historical files of the Kansas Collection:

“The most dramatic contribution of the Ericksons in telephony is associated with the invention and development of the dial telephone. Application for the patent was made by (A.E.) Keith and the Ericksons on August 20, 1896, and Patent No. 597,062 was granted on January 11, 1898. The dial method was based upon a finger wheel dial instead of the push buttons, which were cumbersome and impractical. The dial method, with the switching and trunk systems, provided full access to the vast resources of a telephone exchange. R. B. Hill, an authority in telephony, has described this important development as follows: ‘Dialing a number wound up a spring whose tension, when the finger was withdrawn, caused the dial to return to its normal position. The return rotation was limited to a moderate speed by an escapement mechanism, and, during the return, the required number of circuit interruptions took place to control the movement of the central office apparatus.’”

Telephone numbers in the 1960’s were identified by a combination of letters and numbers. Eight of the finger holes on the phone had 3 letters. My phone number growing up, then, was listed as follows: Glencourt 2, 4100, or in its phone book listed form, GL2-4100. Translation for the kids of today: 452-4100. Area Codes were added in 1947 but unlike today were not needed for all calls.

Beige phone

            Standard issue phone in the 1960’s

In my household the phone was strategically placed in the kitchen. When it rang, you answered as there was no answering machine. Up until about 1971 the phone was never for me and the conversations were usually brief as the device was a method for setting up an appointment or such other daily business.

With teenagers in the house, however, its use ballooned. My sister used it, especially, for the higher purpose of dialing in to radio stations to make song requests and try to win things. With transistor radio on one ear and the telephone on the other she’d dial incessantly to be the 10th or 20th or 93rd caller. She seemed to win. A lot.

My long suffering parents finally tired of chatty teenagers doing their teenager business in the middle of the family area and a second phone was installed.

This phone was the holy grail of all things teen. Located in my parents’ bedroom it provided the one thing we craved: privacy.

When boys started to call my older sister – and eventually me – we were allowed to use the phone in my parent’s bedroom. There was no chair next to the phone, just the bed and the floor. Many an hour was spent sitting on that floor, back against the bed, talking to the boy of the month… at least until Mom would come in to the room and tell us to wrap it up.

Mike's Beacon Hill apartment December 1971

Unlike today, photos of people with phones was uncommon. In going through old photo albums this was the only picture I found with a phone in it. I took this photo at my older brother’s apartment (he was 24) when me and my parents drove to Seattle on December 27, 1971, to bring him Christmas. Mom is on the right. Rotary dial phone is on the left.

We envied the few friends who had their own phone in their room. What a luxury!

When I became a parent and cell phones (before the smart phones took over) were a thing it became very difficult to monitor what the child was doing. No doubt it’s even more difficult now with text messages, unfettered internet access, and app’s like Instagram. It was much easier for my parents as they could cut the conversation off at any time and when the household went to bed no teen was sneakily talking or texting on the phone.

I attribute my ability to pick up a phone and call anyone about anything to the training I received as a teenager. Back then the only way anything was going to happen was by grabbing the phone and twisting those 10 little holes to make a call. Ah, the good old days.

A couple of links for those who wish to learn more about phones and the rotary dial:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_dial

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_dial

Take The Plunge!

July 23, 2019

With the extreme temperatures which have gripped much of the United States the past week, people – especially parents with kids at home – often seek out water as a way to find relief.

It’s appropriate, then, that the first swimming school in the U.S. opened on July 23, 1827, in Boston, Massachusetts. The proprietor, German immigrant Franz Lieber, believed that swimming was a healthy activity necessary to aid a boy’s growth.  Unfortunately, the swimming school failed after two years

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First public pool in Brookline, Massachusetts

Now I can’t find the reason for this failure except to say that it might have been due to the absence of a heated water holding area where his young charges could safely swim. If those boys were forced to swim in the Charles River, they likely found it somewhat unpleasant. Alas, it was another 60 years before the first public swimming pool opened in nearby Brookline.

 

Over the years, the swimming pool has become a staple of American life; a desired amenity for traveling Americans and nearly a requirement for suburban homes across the southern half of the nation.

In my research I found some interesting ‘records’ for pools. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“According to the Guinness World Records, the largest swimming pool in the world is San Alfonso del Mar Seawater pool in Algarrobo, Chile. It is 1,013 m (3,323 ft) long and has an area of 8 ha (20 acres). At its deepest, it is 3.5 m (11 ft) deep. It was completed in December 2006.

The largest indoor wave pool in North America is at the West Edmonton Mall and the largest indoor pool is at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in the Sonny Carter Training Facility at NASA JSC in Houston.

In 2014, the Y-40 swimming pool at the Hotel Terme Millepini in Padua, Italy became the deepest indoor pool at 42.15 m (138.3 ft), certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. The recreational diving center Nemo 33 near Brussels, Belgium previously held the record (34.5 m (113 ft)) from May 2004 until the Y-40 was completed in June 2014.

Fleishacker pool San Francisco

Fleishhacker Pool which was really more of a man made lake complete with boats

The Fleishhacker Pool in San Francisco was the largest heated outdoor swimming pool in the United States. Opened on 23 April 1925, it measured 1,000 by 150 ft (300 by 50 m) and was so large that the lifeguards required kayaks for patrol. It was closed in 1971 due to low patronage.

 

In Europe, the largest swimming pool opened in 1934 in Elbląg (Poland), providing a water area of 33,500 square metres (361,000 sq ft).

One of the largest swimming pools ever built was reputedly created in Moscow after the Palace of Soviets remained uncompleted. The foundations of the palace were converted into the Moskva Pool open-air swimming pool after the process of de-Stalinisation. However, after the fall of communism, Christ the Saviour Cathedral was re-built on the site between 1995 and 2000; the cathedral had originally been located there.

The highest swimming pool is believed to be in Yangbajain (Tibet, China). This resort is located at 4200 m AMSL and has two indoor swimming pools and one outdoor swimming pool, all filled with water from hot springs.”

Hearst castle pool

One of the world’s most iconic and beautiful pools located at Hearst Castle in California.

If you want to really indulge in pool envy one needs only to watch the HGTV show “Ultimate Pools” which features beautiful private oases of the rich but not famous.

Having grown up in Yakima, Washington, the hot, dry summers made it a natural spot for pools to proliferate. When my family moved there in the early 1960’s, however, very few families I knew had built in backyard pools. Instead, the first ‘pool’ I recall was about the size of large area rug and constructed of industrial canvas and metal poles. It was no more than 18 inches tall. Once it was filled with icy cold water my sister and I would, on hot days, lay in the shallow water to cool off.

For my 7th birthday a new pool arrived. It was round and about the size of a small bedroom. Its hard plastic walls stood about 3 feet tall and it was definitely an upgrade.  It was during this time, however, that I was introduced to the public swimming pool. The best summer days were those when we got to go down to Franklin Park – about a mile from our house – and pay our 10 cents to swim.

Franklin-pool-1

I was unable to find an historic photo of the death board. It was located on the other side of the water slide in the original pool. The pool in the foreground was added sometime after 1980.

It seemed as if we were gone all day but I’m pretty certain it was only for a couple of hours. The pool was constructed in an ‘L’ shape with one area being the shallow end and the other being the terrifying end. In the years I went to Franklin pool there was one thing I never did. I never jumped off the high dive board. I can still see that board, suspended over the deep end, beckoning me like the death trap I was certain it must be. Yet other, much braver, young souls would scale the ladder, walk the plank, and then plunge 47 feet to their death.  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t 47 feet. More like fifteen. And to the best of my knowledge no one ever died. But I was not taking any chances. Mostly I got cold after a short time swimming and would go hang out in the locker room with the girl who worked there. I remember her name was Nancy and she was in high school and very kind to this annoying child.

 

Pam in pool August 1973

My friend Pam in the pool during construction, August 1973. Neighbors property is in background.

It was in the summer of 1973, however, that things really changed. That was the year my parents decided to put a pool in the backyard of our home. What an exciting summer that was. One morning a crew arrived with backhoes and soon there was a huge hole behind our house. For several weeks we watched the daily progress until one day in late summer the pool was complete and the hoses began to flow.

 

That pool was the dream of every teenage girl. A diving board was set just above the water so no death defying plunges were required; and it featured a curved water slide that flung the rider into the pool.

Pete demonstrating the water slide September 1973

My brother demonstrating proper use of the water slide. September 1973

As for me, I still got cold far too easily and discovered that the best way to ‘swim’ was with the aid of an air mattress. Hours were spent each of the next several summers floating on my conveyance about the pool, getting in the water when I got too hot, but would soon return to the lazy comfort of my air mattress.

Barb 1973 during pool construction

16 year old me out investigating the pool construction site August 1973. They had to remove a deck at the side of the house to access the yard. (behind me)

Eventually the upkeep of the pool became too much and was one of the factors which prompted our parents to sell the house and move in 1984. What great memories I have of those summers in the 1970’s and the hours spent afloat on that pool. When we are young we often don’t appreciate something so special. Ah, to be 16 again with nary a care in the world and a pool to call my own!

As always a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimming_pool

Pool envy:

https://www.hgtv.com/shows/ultimate-pools

History of pools:

https://www.swimmingpool.com/pool-living/pool-history-facts-and-terms/history-pools

 

That’s The Pits!

Cherries!

July 2, 2019

The item which caught my attention for this week’s blog is the amusing ‘contest’ of cherry pit spitting. Yes, it’s a thing.

cherry spit site.jpgHeld annually in Eau Claire, Michigan, since 1974, the record ‘spit’ of a cherry pit is 93 ft 6.5 inches. The competition has been dominated by one family with the patriarch, Rick Krause, holding the record for longest spit (over 72 feet) until 1993. Since then, his son, Brian ‘Pellet Gun’ Krause has won 10 times with his record breaking discharge occurring the first week of July in 2003. In recent years Brian’s sons have also competed.

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Patriarchal Cherry pit spitter Rick Krause in 2010. Photo from Lifecompassblog.com

Others have stepped up to put their spitting skills to the test, but the Krause family continues to dominate.

It is appropriate, therefore, as we celebrate all things red, white, and blue this week, to pay tribute to one of my favorite red things: the cherry.

Every July I can hardly wait for the harvest of this fruit to begin in the Yakima Valley. For there is truly nothing better than picking a cluster of the ruby orbs and (after they’re cleaned off) biting into the soft, juicy flesh. As a fan of the sweet varieties such as Bing and Sweetheart, an explosion of flavor reminds me how much I’ve missed them since the previous year.

The cherry has a long history of cultivation with evidence that the fruit has been grown since prehistoric times. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The English word cherry derives from Old Northern French or Norman cherise from the Latin cerasum, referring to an ancient Greek region, Kerasous (Κερασοῦς) near Giresun, Turkey, from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe. The indigenous range of the sweet cherry extends through most of Europe, western Asia, and parts of northern Africa, and the fruit has been consumed throughout its range since prehistoric times. A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, also known as the Pontus region, in 72 BC.

Cherries were introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent, by order of Henry VIII, who had tasted them in Flanders.

Cherries arrived in North America early in the settlement of Brooklyn, New York (then called ‘New Netherland’) when the region was under Dutch sovereignty. ”

In the United States, the first record of cherry trees being planted was 1639.

Bing cherriesSweet cherries are grown most successfully in Washington, Oregon, California, Wisconsin, and Michigan (hence the location of the cherry pit spitting contest). Most sour cherry varieties are grown in Michigan, Utah, New York and Washington.

To successfully grow cherries, the climate must have cold winters although varieties have been developed recently which have allowed California to compete in cherry production. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Most cherry varieties have a chilling requirement of 800 or more hours, meaning that in order to break dormancy, blossom, and set fruit, the winter season needs to have at least 800 hours where the temperature is below 45 °F (7 °C). “Low chill” varieties requiring 300 hours or less are Minnie Royal and Royal Lee, requiring cross-pollinization, whereas the cultivar, Royal Crimson, is self-fertile. These varieties extend the range of cultivation of cherries to the mild winter areas of southern US. This is a boon to California producers of sweet cherries, as California is the second largest producer of sweet cherries in the US.”

My relationship with the cherry has not always been an enjoyable one, however. In the 1970’s, my father took over managing a cherry orchard which my grandfather – a banker – had gotten as way of repayment of a loan gone bad some years earlier. In those years Dad had two jobs: Junior High School history teacher and orchardist. My first summer ‘job’ as a teenager was picking cherries.

By early July in Yakima the weather usually turns quite warm. It is common for there to be a spate of days when the thermometer inches into the upper 90’s and low 100’s.  It’s then that the cherries ripen and harvest begins. For the pickers, work commences shortly after daybreak while the orchard is still cool.

One summer, with my then boyfriend and his younger sister, we arrived – along with all the migrant workers – to begin our job. Each person was assigned a tree, given a ladder and a bucket. Now when I say bucket, we are not talking about a pail like those favored by children at the beach. Nope. The metal buckets I knew held a lot of cherries, some 4 1/2 gallons worth, and it seemed to take forever to fill one up.

ladder in cherry orchardPicking cherries requires a delicate method. You must hold the fruit at the very top of the stem (stem less cherries are not saleable in the fresh market) and gently twist so that the stem is removed from the branch without pulling the spur off the tree. Then you place – do NOT drop – the fruit into the bucket. Lather, rinse, repeat. My rough estimates are thus: 80 cherries for a gallon times 4.5 gallons equals 360 cherries for one bucket. It takes a long time to pick 360 cherries plus, with one’s assigned ‘tree’, you also had to climb up 12 to 15 feet while balancing a bucket of heavy fruit.

Now what, you may ask, is ‘the spur’?” It’s a knobby growth at the end of a branch and if it’s pulled off that branch will not produce cherries the next year. My father the orchardist was rather persnickety about those spurs being preserved.

By noon time – having been there picking since 5 a.m. – the heat would have arrived and I would have picked… seven buckets of fruit. That’s 2,420 cherries each day of harvest… and be paid seven whole dollars. Some of the migrant workers could pick up to 200 buckets a day. I’ve never figured out how.

Okay, the job truly sucked. Although seven bucks went farther in nineteen seventy something than it does today. But it wasn’t a lot of money.

My experience as a cherry picker makes me appreciate the delicious fruit even more. When my sister brought a bag of the freshly picked delights to me yesterday, it was a taste of heaven. For the next few weeks I will jealously guard my cherries, making the bounty last until late July. By then I will have satisfied my craving for the fleshy fruit for another year.

The best part? I didn’t have to pick them!

patriotic pie

Happy 4th of July everyone!

A couple of links for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry

http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/legacies/loc.afc.afc-legacies.200003151/default.html

“I’m Going To Thread The Needle”

May 21, 2019

Oakfield_Tornado_71896Mid-May in the United States is often a dangerous time to be in the central plains. The month is prime tornado season, a month when hundreds of twisters can occur in what is described as an ‘outbreak.’

While tornado’s have been observed during every month of the year, my research revealed that the third week of May (the 20th to the 27th) has produced a phenomenal number since 1955. In fact, there have been 1,448 recorded U.S. tornadoes in this date range!

One of the deadliest and most damaging tornado sequences began on May 21, 2011 and continued for six days. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“On May 21, a small system of thunderstorms developed in Brown County, Kansas while another system formed to the southeast of Emporia, Kansas. The Brown county system spawned a brief tornado over Topeka, Kansas, causing minor damage. This system also caused significant damage in Oskaloosa, Kansas, and other communities. Meanwhile, the Emporia system spawned an EF3 tornado that struck Reading, Kansas; one person was killed, several others were injured, and at least 20 houses were destroyed. These two systems developed several other tornadoes throughout the evening.

A moderate risk of severe weather was issued for much of the Midwest, as well as further south to Oklahoma for May 22. (snip). Late that afternoon, a large, intense EF5 multiple-vortex tornado left catastrophic destruction in Joplin, Missouri. Causing 158 fatalities, it was the deadliest single tornado in the U.S. since at least 1947.”

The next day, May 23, tornadic activity continued but was minor compared to Joplin. The sequence was capped by an EF5 tornado in El Reno, Oklahoma on May 24. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“ At 12:50 p.m. CDT, the SPC issued a Particularly Dangerous Situation  (PDS) tornado watch for parts of central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City and northern Texas, in effect until 10:00 p.m. CDT. Numerous tornadoes touched down in several regions, with the first activity being in western Oklahoma that afternoon where several very intense tornadoes developed, including another EF5 (the sixth of the year). They did not cause extensive damage in Oklahoma City, but 11 deaths were reported among extensive damage just to the southwest of the OKC metro. Other tornado clusters developed in central Kansas that afternoon and in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex that evening.”

As I have watched the tornado activity these past few days it prompts a memory of when drove with my son from Seattle to Nashville in May 2014.

The morning of May 11, Mother’s Day, we arose before daylight. We had spent the night in Mitchell, South Dakota. The previous day I followed the severe weather reports on my brand new smart phone. It looked like the central US from northern Iowa through Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, would be impacted. That morning we had a choice to make:

Head south and risk being in the path of tornadoes or continue along I-90 and hope to skirt the storms by going far to the east before taking I-65 south to Nashville.

Barb's cell phone photos May to August 2014 101

What looks like a possible wedge cloud forming in the side view mirror

We were up before dawn, racing across Minnesota. By early afternoon we crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. It was when I-90 turned south at Tomah that things started to change.

The sky clouded and the winds picked up. We stopped only for gas breaks, choosing to eat nuts, fruit, and veggie straws in the car.

As a bonafide National Weather Service junkie, I can tell you there are two colors which strike fear when they appear on the weather map: bright yellow and red. The first means ‘tornado watch.’ The second is ‘tornado’ warning – as in ‘a tornado is on the ground’. I watched as county after county in Iowa turned yellow, the storm marching toward Illinois and us.

Mothers Day 2014 Tornado EvasionBy the time we got to the Chicago suburbs we had but one thought: get through as quickly as possible. Chicago is a maze of roads with bypasses for the bypasses for the bypasses… if you’re willing to pay. Were we ever.

We zigzagged to the southwest, me counting out dollar bills and change to get us through each toll booth. When I could look up from the map my eyes were drawn to the threatening western sky. And the Illinois counties turned yellow. Finally, a mere 30 miles away, we could see a black cloud headed directly for Joliet. Could we outrun it? A couple minutes later we turned east and entered Indiana unscathed.

We hurried south, making a pit stop at a rest area/park near Rensselaer. I was amazed – and said so – that there were people having a picnic there when the weather map indicated that the spot was right in the path of the severe weather.

By this time the hubby – back home in Kirkland – was tracking the storms and giving advice. Of course my son and I were driving somewhat blind as to the real-time nature of the event and appreciated the text messages alerting us to the dangers.

We were just outside of Indianapolis when the hubby advised that there was tornado activity passing through that city. The conditions deteriorated and driving became more treacherous. Not sure what to do, my son turned the truck around and we headed north once again. But, we were now informed by the hubby, the system to the north was also a problem, so not to go north. We stopped at a Love’s Travel stop 7 miles south of Lebanon. Perched on a slight rise with a full western view we watched the dark clouds form to our southwest and speculated where the storm would head. We couldn’t continue south and couldn’t go north. We watched for several minutes before I, with growing alarm at the spectacle, said to my son, “We can’t stay here.”

Back on the road a minute later he headed south…

“What,” I asked, “are you going to do?”

“I’m going to thread the needle.”

And so we did. The rain poured but we were now on the backside of the front. By the time we exited Indianapolis, the weather cleared. A short time later and well after 8 p.m. and dark, we stopped at a rest area. When we got back to the truck my son asked me if I could drive. He’d done most of the day’s driving, nearly 14 hours behind the wheel… but we were both spent and knew it would be folly to continue to Nashville that night.

That hotel in Columbia, Indiana – a lovely little town – was the best thing we’d seen that day. Not the most interesting, mind you, but definitely the best.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_outbreak_sequence_of_May_21%E2%80%9326,_2011

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornadoes_of_2014

https://www.weather.gov/gid/102204

 

 

 

To The Bat Cave

Carlsbad Caverns

May 14, 2019

This spectacle occurs at sunset daily from mid-spring until late fall. And if you ever go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, it’s a sight to behold. What is it? The nightly flight of nearly a half million bats.

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The flight of the bats is but one thing to recommend a visit to the 20th National Park established on May 14, 1930. The caverns themselves are spectacular with the main event Big Room providing incredible sights around every turn in the path.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at its highest point. The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.”

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The top of the natural entry way… only 725 to the bottom.

Visitors to the cave have two options for entry. Two years after it opened, elevators were installed to take tourists some 725 feet down to the Big Room. The traditional entry involves hiking down a switchback trail over a mile long and takes well over an hour.

When the hubby and I visited Carlsbad last October we opted for the switchback trail down which, in my opinion, enhanced the experience. By the time we arrived at the Big Room, our appetites were whetted.  It’s impossible to describe how large the space is and, at times, it was easy to forget we were in a cave. The ceiling soared high above our heads and many of the stalagmites and columns were the size of redwoods. In contrast there were also delicate formations known as ‘straws’ – thin tubes of limestone formed by centuries of slowly dripping calcite and ribbons. There were small lakes and ponds and fantastically named features like the Giant Dome and the Bottomless Pit. It took us well over three hours for the descent into and tour of the Big Room.

20181004_121935

A fraction of the spectacular sights to see in Carlsbad.

After our tour we returned to the surface via the elevators and then back to our motel to rest up before returning for the nightly bat flight. If you want to be awed by nature, then this phenomenon will capture your imagination. We arrived at the stone amphitheater near sunset. The ranger on duty explained to the assembled group what was about to happen. We were instructed  to watch the cavern opening – aptly named the bat cave – for the emergence of the bats.

(I did not shoot this video. The night we were there it was our understanding that recording it was not allowed)

The ranger explained that he would talk only until the first bats appeared and instructed the audience that when someone saw the bats they were to raise their hand and spin it in a circular motion. A few minutes later several arms shot into the air and the group fell silent. All you could hear and see was the sound of thousands of bat wings whirring and the twilight skies filled with the silhouettes of the tiny creatures as they flew away in search of food.

From the National Park Service:

“What triggers emergence of the bats from the cave at night is something of a mystery. The only scientific correlation found with the emergence of bats is civil twilight (28 minutes past sunset). Bats flying around the roost site can see light entering Bat Cave from Carlsbad Cavern’s second natural entrance. But based on the variability of the bats emergence, civil twilight is not the only explanation.

20181004_122734

Stalactites cling to the ceiling

The out flight can last up to three hours, depending on a variety of factors, including the number of bats in the colony. Bats can begin returning at any time, particularly when they have pups to nurse (in which case they typically head out to feed again before morning). The number of bats returning usually peaks around dawn. When the bats fly over the amphitheater, you can hear their wings and also smell them. The Brazilian (Mexican) free-tail bats have a unique odor—not all bat species have an obvious odor. The bats spiral out of the cave in a counter-clockwise direction. It is not known why they choose to spiral counter-clockwise, but current research suggest a variety of factors play roles. One of these may be an internal ‘compass’ in the bats that is based on the earth’s magnetic poles.”

20181004_103032.jpgWe stayed until it was too dark to really see the bats any longer. Even then we were reluctant to depart. Mark another place off my list of places I’ve always wanted to visit!

A couple of links:

https://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlsbad_Caverns_National_Park